We cannot use the whole week and have to be home by Thursday night, so decide to save a trip on the Nene until later.
Saturday 24th May. We just pack and travel today and arrive at the boat in time to unpack and visit the Wharf for dinner. There is a very big wedding going on, but we still get served.
Sunday 25th May. Visit the Crick boat show by car and spend too much money. Elizabeth is well entertained by the kids activities, but there are a couple of torrential downpours; luckily we are inside at the time. When we return to the boat it’s about 4:30, so we set off South and moor at Stoke Bruerne. There is a space just too short for us and we ask the next boat to move up, but it seems they have had some problems with the next boat moving them away; still, they do it for us, we smarten ourselves up a bit and head for the Navigation. On the way we realise we could have moored twice over closer to the pub. Do a bit of Canaltime spotting. (Historical Note – Canaltime was a timeshare company that sold weeks on Narrowboats, along with more traditional locations. At one time their fleet was huge, often crewed by people who had never been on the canals before. The boats were distinctive, with no front doors and some odd names.) Elizabeth likes the Navigation….
Monday 26th May. For us, an early start, but it is still 9:30 before we are sharing locks; it’s busy, but no queuing which is ideal as we cross over with other boats in most of the pounds. We cannot help our partner boat’s request for some salt for their cooking. Canaltime Spotting goes well, and there are plenty of Wyvern boats around too. The weather is getting very pleasant and we are making good progress until we catch up with an Alvechurch boat cruising at rather erratic speeds and in all sorts of directions. I think the son was being taught to steer. It then slows down to pass some moored boat but forgets to speed up again, so we plan to stop for lunch. I don’t know why I thought there was a patron’s mooring outside the Navigation at Thrupp Wharf, or why it might be free at 2pm on a Bank Holiday Monday, but there was. We ordered some lunch (no children’s meal’s or small portions, I was told, with what seemed like glee) as the crew from the boat in front turned up. We waited about the predicted time we we told for the food, which was O.K. and just as we were thinking of leaving the slow boat’s crew left. Might as well have desert, Elizabeth, and I’ll have another pint….
We watch a Wyvern boat struggle to extricate itself from the very shallow towpath moorings opposite and then walked back through the pub garden, cast off and motor under the bridge only to see the boat that had been holding us up just about to set off. I must admit that I speeded up somewhat and they let us past.
Now, it’s not far to the lock at Cosgrove, and with the number of moored boats we are dawdling, but we wait with the lock set for quite some time until the people coming up persuade me they must have stopped. Again.
We cross the Great Ouse Aqueduct and start traveling around the North of Milton Keynes. The aim is to cruise past Guliver’s Land, turn the boat then moor for the night, but there is some confusion with winding holes. There are three marked on Nicholsons, but the southernmost doesn’t seem to exist, so we end up backing up to moor on some pilling and decide to sort it out tomorrow. The fisherman wasn’t too happy though. Two pubs are within reach, but the nearest, the Cross Keys, wants children gone by 8, so we walked to The Barge and discovered another newly refurbished, food-oriented pub.
Tuesday 27th May. We had to reverse quite a way to turn round, mostly by the opposite of Bow Hauling, which must be Stern Hauling. Finally tied up at good moorings at the park on the non-towpath side North of Bridge 81B and took a very cheerful child for the best part of a day to Guliver’s Land. This theme park is aimed at younger kids, and has what are best described as “pink knuckle” rides. Euro Disney it isn’t, but it’s not expensive and Elizabeth loved it. We returned to the boat about 4:30 and moved 2 miles back to Giffard Park for the night, which topped up the batteries and moored us up conveniently outside the pub. Another kids play area….
Wednesday 28th May. Today started warm and ended very hot. An earlish start finds us stopping for lunch below Cosgrove lock and afterwards walking under the pedestrian tunnel to The Barley Mow. After a welcome drink we head for the bottom of the Stoke Breurne locks and fall in with a wooden narrowboat, deciding to make the top lock, and if there is nowhere to moor, carry on to Blisworth, but there is plenty of space, so we end up in The Navigation again!
Thursday 29th May. After visiting the museum bookshop and stocking up on maps of the Nene, Middle Level and Great Ouse, we potter back through the tunnel to Bugbrooke and leave the boat by mid afternoon, having enjoyed some splendid weather on the way